About 14 years ago, Angelina Bologna was at a point in her life when leaving Cape Cod would have been perfectly understandable.
She was young, earning a living wage here was difficult and affordable housing in the region was scarce. But unlike many of her peers who have moved off-Cape since that time, she decided to remain here for one simple reason – her family.
That family starts with her 13-year-old daughter Milagra. Because of her, Bologna made the choice to live with her parents, providing an essential safety net as she forged her own path towards sustainability. “It was very important for me to have a support system in place, especially while my daughter was young,” Bologna said.
Bologna’s path led her to Cape Cod Community College where she received a certificate in massage therapy in 2008.
Two years later, she was working part-time and still with her parents when she applied for an apartment in a new affordable housing development, Thankful Chase Pathway, in Harwich. “I was living with my parents which was wonderful, but also stifling being an adult and being a mom,” Bologna admitted. “I wasn’t able to parent [my daughter] the way I wanted because I had to respect my parent’s boundaries as well.”
That changed in December 2010 when Bologna’s housing application was accepted and she moved into her new apartment. It was both a joyous time in her life and a sad one. A month earlier her Nona had passed away, a little more than a year after she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That diagnosis later became the seed for Bologna’s latest endeavor – offering massages to oncology patients, free of charge, once a month.
She does so through her company, Hands of an Angel Massage Therapy, which she opened in 2012. The name was inspired by her grandmother. “That is what my Nona said one time when I was rubbing her feet after she had surgery,” Bologna said. “She said it felt like I had the hands of an angel.”
A year after she founded the business, which is located in Dennis, Bologna was able to focus her energies solely on its growth while not shirking her duties as a parent.
Today, Bologna is representative of the type of people – young, driven and contributing to the community - that Cape Cod desperately wants to retain.
While she has over three dozen regular clients that allow her to work five days a week, she is still expanding. She recently decided to focus on those undergoing cancer treatments. “It helps with pain management and helps for someone to lay their hands on you in a loving way,” Bologna said. “To go somewhere where you can be held and supported, you can’t minimize the efficacy of that, especially with what they’re going through.”
HAC’s role in all of this is that the agency has allowed Bologna to flourish to the point that the future looks brighter than it ever did before. Two years ago, Bologna entered into HAC’s Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program which provides financial incentives for participants who are receiving federal and state assistance to boost their income. As one’s salary increases, so does their rent. That increase in rent is then placed into a savings account which is accessible upon the completion of the program.
So far Bologna has found that the program is doing wonders for her confidence and her personal and career ambitions. “The opportunity to join the FSS program and knowing when the rent does go up and the difference is put into an escrow account is an incentive and motivation to keep growing my business and make it more financially viable,” she said.